On December 14, at the David D. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, seven of the leading contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination spoke about their goals for American education. This is a time when American academic performance is slipping further and further down the ranks, while student debt is now common in children as young as five years old. Education is a topic near and dear to voters’ hearts, and to the future of this country.

All seven Democratic candidates want to improve federal education funding, especially in the areas of low-income schools and special education.

Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Bernie Sanders spoke passionately about the need for individual states to break the iniquitous link between property tax and school funding, proposing a use of federal dollars to force the issue.

The federal government should “press [states] to make sure that their funding formulas actually benefit those who most need the funding,” said Buttigieg, in a statement highly critical of the way state funds are currently distributed.

Michael Bennett and Amy Klobuchar, two candidates from further back in the race, spoke about ambitious investment plans for schools in order to improve infrastructure and foster greater community partnerships.

While every candidate on the Pittsburgh stage called for a general increase in teacher salaries, one candidate not present, Cory Booker, currently a Junior Senator for New Jersey, has already introduced legislation to help teachers. His bill, if it passes, would establish a large tax credit for teachers in underserved schools.

Dozens of other topics came up, from both the moderators and the audience. Charter schools, standardized tests, the school-to-prison pipeline, re-opening the discussion on segregation in schools, and in-school mental health services were all addressed. Many of the Democratic candidates’ responses set them directly in opposition to the current state of the Department of Education, which is pro-charter school, anti-public school, and intends to cut billions in federal education funding, both for K-12 and for college students, under EdSec DeVos.

To track where all the candidates stand on issues of education, check out Education Week’s guide to the candidates’ positions.

Photo: Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, pictured here at a 2019 event, spoke about the need to increase federal education funding. Credit: lev radin / Shutterstock.com